n African Journal of Rhetoric - Instrumentalising religious appeals in political discourse : an analysis of Goodluck Jonathan's 2015 campaign speech

Volume 8 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1998-2054


The paper sets out to investigate the extent to which the former President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan used religious allusions to legitimize himself as a credible candidate for the 2015 campaign election. The use of religious rhetoric in politics is not new, but Jonathan's explicit and implicit conflation of political language and religious beliefs deserves attention. The paper employs the etic/emic approach to rhetorical criticism provided by linguist Kenneth Pike in 1967 and adopted by Mao (2003). The etic approach is the initial approach to a rhetorical transaction from outside the culture, which interprets the rhetorical traditions of that culture in terms of a readily available terminology or a pre-existing theory. In using the etic approach, I will employ classical model of analysis - specifically, I will focus on the concepts deliberative rhetoric: stasis and ethical appeal (ethos) broadly. The emic approach, on the other hand, considers rhetorical transactions from within a particular culture without conscious expectations drawn from sources other than the tradition itself. In considering the emic approach, I will focus on how Nigerian cultural contexts influence the use of religion in its national politics. Based on the analysis, it is possible to pick out features of Jonathan's speech which evoke religious notions directly and indirectly through lexical selection, such as 'God,' and syntactic selection, such as 'humanly possible.' The analysis shows that Jonathan's explicit and implicit invocation of the deity of God is used not so much as what Burke (1970) would describe as the use of religion to unify, but it is used largely as a form of legitimizing Jonathan's credibility and goodwill.

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